DALLAS (CBS11) – At the Visit Dallas annual meeting Thursday, Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Straus credited tourism leaders for helping kill bathroom privacy legislation. “You spoke out against an idea that wasn’t just bad for tourism, wasn’t just bad for the state economy, but it was bad for Texas.”
But he also warned them: “If voters send a signal that we don’t mind when an issue like the bathroom bill is front and center, than I’m sure it will be back on the agenda again in 2019. The stakes are too high to spend another election cycle fighting over emotional issues that meant only to divide us.”
Under the proposed legislation that failed during the regular and special legislative sessions in Austin, people would have been required to use bathrooms at government-owned buildings and public schools and universities that matched their birth gender.
Stadiums and convention centers were exempt.
The bills would have also erased local ordinances regrading bathroom usage that granted protections for the LGBTQ community.
Straus and one of his top lieutenants, State Representative Byron Cook, are retiring and won’t be in office in 2019 to block similar measures.
Cook attended the meeting Thursday and said, “It should not come back because there is no problem. And all you’re going to do is put our economy at risk. It puts us at a competitive disadvantage with other states.”
The Corsicana Republican is now chairing the House Committee on Economic Competitiveness.
The committee held a hearing Wednesday, and will hold a second one December 5 to determine what the state must do to stay competitive in the future.
A report will be released one week later, which Cook says shows how urgent this issue is.
The CEO of Visit Dallas, Phillip Jones says convention planners would have avoided Dallas had the legislation passed.
Before debate began, Jones says Dallas had booked ten major conventions that would attract about ten thousand people each.
He says the bill’s death led to a dramatic increase in bookings. “Once we knew the bill was dead and gone, we ended up booking 30 in the span of a month to a month and a half that were sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happened with the bathroom bill.”
But social conservatives say they aren’t giving up and will continue to fight for bathroom privacy bills in 2019.
Republican State Representative Matt Rinaldi of Irving says, “This is a much bigger fight and that was a small sliver of it, so I don’t think it’s going to end now.”
He says many businesses support bathroom privacy legislation.
Rinaldi also points to statistics showing that during the past ten years, more than one million people have moved to Texas from other states.
Many of them Rinaldi says are conservatives who left liberal states. “That exodus is responsible for $500 billion in economic growth in this state over the past ten years. We’re putting that at jeopardy if we adopt policies like California.”